Every Body Remembers Part 1

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

More specifically, this is a Really Real Trauma Post.

Trigger Warning:  Violence, Police Violence, Mention of Drugs

Story time.  This is long, one of my longest posts in awhile.

When I was around 22, my son’s father and I were dirt poor and facing homelessness.  It was the first time my mental health prevented me from working and he wasn’t able to get or hold a job either.

I found a mental health program that would pay our rent for a year if we could find a place under $400 a month.

We looked and we looked,  not finding a single thing.  The offer was about to run out and we were desperate.  Finally we came across a beat-up, slumlord owned, row home in one of the worst areas of the city.

We moved in.

We put our living room in one of the bedrooms on the second floor because bullets were less likely to come through those windows if shots were fired (and they were, leaving a hole in the car I was borrowing at the time).

We were the only white family for blocks.  I got pulled over regularly and learned to carry not only my licence, but my utility bill and even a copy of my lease.  The only people that looked like us in that neighborhood were driving through buying one of the many types of drugs that were sold from most corners and in front of the abandoned houses.

Our time there wasn’t all horrible.  We made friends with the neighbors, both the ones trying to “clean up the streets” and the ones selling the drugs.  We stayed out of the drama and got to know them all as individuals.  We got to know their stories and why they ended up where they were.  We cried real tears when someone we knew well, who just happened to be in a feud with another dealer, was shot in the head and died.

They also looked out for us.  They knew we stood out and could become easy prey so I was often escorted from my car to my house if I had to park far away.  Once, in a miscommunication between us and roommates, our front door got left wide open while no one was home and someone from the neighborhood watched our place for almost 12 hours.  Of course part of that is the fact that no one wants the cops to show up on “their street.”

But one day the cops did show up.

I had just gotten Kidlet out of the tub.  I can still see where I was standing, with my tiny 3 year old, wrapped in a towel, on my hip.  I heard breaking wood and the front door slam open and “This is the police” and countless footsteps stomp through the house and up the steps towards me.  Guns were drawn and pointed at my face.  At my 3 year old’s face.

At My 3 Year Old’s Face.

After demanding to know What The Fuck was going on, my sons father was cuffed and slammed against the stairs.  I remember seeing him, defeated, sitting on the bottom step.

They brought people I’d never seen before in from out front.  People just passing through?  Someone they thought was involved with whatever they thought was happening at my house?

While sitting on the sofa with my still mostly naked son, strangers from out front cuffed and on the floor around me, cops watching me, they threw random clothes at me and told me to dress him.

I asked for a warrant repeatedly.  Hours? later they produced one.  Something about having to remove the judges name being the reason for the delay.  I’m honestly not sure.

They said they saw us dealing drugs through our front door.  Said they had been watching us for years building a case.   My son’s father said it was because we were white, because we could only look like us, and be in this neighborhood, for drug reasons.  They said they had no idea what race we were.  Those two facts do not go together.

My sons father and I smoked pot at one point.  From what I recall we didn’t have any actual marijuana leaf in the house though, we hadn’t smoked in quite some time.  We couldn’t even keep the lights on.  We weren’t getting high.  They found a box of seeds and stems and some paraphernalia.  They threatened to arrest us for that if we didn’t just sit still and shut up and drop it.

A little while later they took what they found and left.  Broken door still sitting wide open with no way to close it.

We never heard another word.

There’s a point to me telling this story, but this is long enough, I’ll tell the rest in a part two.

Hey, Mom.

This is a Really Real Parenting Post.

We have a totally different relationship now.

It’s 6am texts with “Hey, mom have you heard this song?” while he’s finishing his shift at work and I’m still sleeping.

It’s check in texts from both of us “How’s work going?” “How are you feeling today?”

It’s almost weekly phone calls and the occasional video chats where we catch up on how life is really treating us and discuss serious world topics that make my heart swell with pride when I realize how grown he really is.

It’s both of us talking about our relationships and how happy we are but also talking about problems and getting advice from a different perspective.

I still love those texts where he shares a song with me.  Music speaks to both of us in ways that a lot of people can’t fathom.  One of my favorite trips was shortly after Parker died, a road trip together, to NY, going back and forth sharing the songs that were getting us through the loss.  By the end we were singing each others songs and crying together.

This morning he sent me one of his current songs.  I did what I do and pulled up the video and the lyrics.

By the end of the first chorus I was crying.

That great big ugly cry that felt like it had been pent-up for years (but it hadn’t).

I knew why he sent it to me.

Not to make me cry, of course, but it spoke to me about his childhood, in a loose round about way, without being specific.  Of hard times he and I had, before he left, where we fought non-stop about everything and anything.  It spoke of a mother, me, who wasn’t well and a kid who finally understood that the mother was doing the best she could.

“And though you say the days are happy, why is the power off and I’m fucked up?”

And the thing is, we could both be reading totally different things into these songs. Sometimes we discuss them and realize we are.  I haven’t had a chance to really talk about this one with him.

I love that he trusts me enough to share this stuff with me.  I didn’t have a relationship with my parents where I could have discussed my music with them at his age, or really at any age.  They didn’t get it, and didn’t really want to.

My relationship with Kidlet is different now.

It’s 2,700 miles different.

It’s full-grown man different.

It’s still pretty damn amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Zoom Zoom

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post

My brain is going a million miles an hour.  I want to talk non stop and explain all of the whys of the world.  But I also know that would annoy the hell out of the people around me so I’m trying to stay calm and quiet.

I wouldn’t want want to be too much.

It’s also really hard to focus on the things I want to get done today.  Hard to settle down and make the decisions I need to make.

I’m spending too much money.  It’s on things I need, a hair cut, food, bills, bills, bills, but it feels like too much as I watch the bank account go lower and lower.

I just got my check and it needs to last.

It’s almost as if I can feel my thoughts running all over the place.  Zooming from one part of my brain to the next.  Constantly trying to keep them contained.  Figuring out which ones are worth hanging on to and which ones need to be dumped out.

I’m constantly pulling myself back on task.

I remember the days when Parker and I would both get manic, feeding off of each other, taking each other higher and higher, spiraling up and out of control.  Boundless energy with no where for it to go.

Today it’s just my thoughts, there’s no energy to go with it.  I’m exhausted, yawning constantly, no real drive to do anything with all of the dreams that are happening inside of my head.

I know most of those dreams will die as this episode passes anyway, so why work on them now.

And that sounds more depressing then it really is.

I used to let my manic dreams take me away, dumping loads of time, energy, and even money into something that I just knew was going to bring me out of the life of destitution I was living.  Now I just stay the course.  I’m using the energy to get further ahead on schoolwork in case of the inevitable crash and I’m writing more.  That’s about it.

I thought a little today about getting a car, then I thought more about it and realized that, that, too, was a manic dream that would have done nothing but gotten me in trouble.  Cars cost more money then I am likely to have anytime soon.

Just in the few hours it’s taken me to write this (lots of distractions), there’s been another shift in my mood . . .up up up, down down down.

Just hanging on for the ride and hoping it stays as stable as it has been.

Change

When Parker and I first got this house we got a few cheap cube units, and along with the cube units we ended up getting a decorative box that became our change box. It was on clearance and it kind of looked like a treasure chest.
 
Pretty quickly the buckle broke off, and I saved it for a long while, saying I was going to glue it back on, but of course I never did, so it was this plain brown box covered in pleather.
 
Countless times we raided the change box for money for cigarettes or a soda or to get something to eat because the bank account was in the negative and the stamps were gone.
 
Bus fare, mobility fare, a few dollars for Kidlet to get something because he’s a kid and should have some money for something.
 
We never could keep quarters in the thing and we knew we were doing well if we threw a few dollars in there for safe keeping.
 
Kidlet knew he could raid it when he needed something and I knew he raided it occasionally just cause he wanted something but he never took enough to cause any major harm.
 
So many times we’d be completely broke but at least we could scrounge up enough change to get one last pack of smokes so that we didn’t lose our minds that night, maybe it would keep us going just that much longer.
 
Life seemed so much different, priorities were different.
 
I’m still shit with money, being so so poor for so so long means I don’t actually know how to save because I’m afraid of it. Bipolar adds another twist.
 
But I keep cleaning out my purse and throwing money in the change box and the other day I was moving it and noticed the hinge had popped.
 
It had gotten too heavy to hold all of the weight.
 
This has never happened before. There had never been enough time without needing to raid the change box that the amount of weight was able to reach that level.
 
Last night I threw the box away and switched everything over to other containers.
 
Today at PHP I broke down over the change in my situation and how she is not here to see it. How it may never have happened if she was here.
 
We would still be counting change the day before a holiday to get enough cigarettes to make it through. Wondering if the lights were going to get shut off on a holiday day, or if they had to wait till a day later. Wondering if a heat wave was enough to make them leave the electric on.
 
But at the same time I’m afraid that nothing really has changed and that at any moment I’ll stop being able to cover the bills, that I’ll lose the help I have, and that the lights will go out or I won’t be able to fill the fridge or that I’ll be scrounging through that change box.
 
It’s horrible when every single positive has this ghost of the past hanging over it, this fear that at any moment it could all be taken away. That everything could change again.
 
I know I would survive it if it did go back to how it was. I’m a survivor, it’s what I do, Resilient as Fuck, and all, but I don’t ever want to go back to that. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
 
Change is such a hard hard thing to deal with. It’s incredibly heavy sometimes.

Other Side

Here’s why ‘work’ felt amazing today.

When I was relying on food pantries and social service agencies and spending half the week finding whatever resource I could to pay bills and keep fed and still make it to doctors appointments …..

I’d show up at a food pantry and they wouldn’t be open during those hours anymore, or at all. Or, they’d hand me yet another box of cans to go with the 3 boxes of cans in the basement when what we really needed was some fresh food, meat, something that wasn’t loaded with salt and might make me feel human for a day or two. That meant I took time away from something else productive to get to something that wasn’t needed in that moment, or in the case of the closed pantry, that was completely useless.

Sometimes that meant spending money on transportation or using up a favor.

I said that we needed a wiki based program, something that could be updated by those of us using the services. Nothing is up to date by the time large agencies pass out lists or post them online and most of the small agencies don’t have the resources to man phone lines. And I started looking into what it would take to make it happen, at least locally. But it ended up slipping by the wayside.

United Way updates their database yearly on a rotating basis, I just started training to make the calls to the providers. She was emphasizing how important it is to get detailed information so the clients know up front what each provider is able to help with, to avoid wasting their time/energy. Fresh food vs canned, how much towards a bill, what are the income or paperwork requirements, etc.

And, they are working towards a searchable online system that would allow notes to be left by users. It’s a long way away but they know it’s needed because they can’t keep up either.

I don’t know if I’ll end up working here in a paid capacity, but it feels so good to be on the other side of this.